North Carolina’s Dexter Strickland won’t be at the NBA Draft on Thursday in body but will be in spirit.
It’s all about that ol’ Jersey bond and his Duke buddy Kyrie Irving.
“We’re good friends, so sure, I’m going to be watching and hoping he’s the No. 1 pick,” Strickland said Tuesday during UNC’s summer media interviews.
Strickland, a junior guard from Rahway, N.J., and Irving, from West Orange, N.J., spent much of the spring working out with each other.
Irving, a point guard, is expected to be the first pick by Cleveland after leaving Duke following his freshman season.
Irving played in only 11 games after suffering a toe injury on Dec. 4. He returned for the NCAA Tourney, where Duke was eliminated by Arizona in the West Regional semifinals.
“Kyrie’s playing great right now,” Strickland said. “He’s completely recovered from the injury. His quickness is all the way back.”
The draft, which will begin at 7 p.m., will be staged in New Jersey to add to the local flavor for Strickland. It’ll take place in Newark’s Prudential Center, where UNC’s season ended in the NCAA East championship against Kentucky.
While Irving enters his first pro season (assuming there is not a labor impasse), Strickland and the Heels are a virtual lock to begin 2011-12 as the nation's top-ranked team.
"The goal is to win it all," Strickland said. "Where we start in the rankings won't change our goal whether we're No. 1 or not."